Holistic Sustainability with Metta

Posted in Meditation + Philosophy

When you hear the word sustainability these days you immediately think of the environment, however, the general definition of the word is “the ability to be sustained or supported.” When you spend a lot of time outputting energy and not a lot of time “filling the well” you burn out, even when doing something you love like writing, creating art, or taking care of someone.

In both yoga and Buddhism there exists a practice called Loving-Kindness. One of my main and favourite practices, it is essential in sustaining my energy and efforts; hence, it is my holistic sustainability.

The “love” part in the translation of this Pali (metta) and Sanskrit (maitri) word is often misleading; it is not the passionate, fiery, conditional love present in rom-coms and Danielle Steele novels. Instead, it is an all encompassing, unconditional, overall acceptance of who we are as we are. As Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön says “Practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”

There is an informal and formal way to practice loving-kindness. The way this looks like on the yoga mat is that each pose and breath is an expression of the loving-kindness you have or hope to have. The formal practice of metta entails a repetition of phrases (see below) to a list of recipients, starting with yourself, then moving on to a benefactor, neutral person, difficult person, and finally all beings. At first, the opposite feelings of loving-kindness may come up, however, with persistent practice, the dust will get swept away to reveal your natural tendency towards metta.

May I be happy and healthy
May I be free from inner and outer suffering
May I be held in compassion
May I love and accept myself just as I am

This Valentine’s Day make sure you give some love to yourself first; it’ll only make you better able to give love to others.